Thomas Davis states he's 'not a cheater' after Carolina Panthers linebacker earns four-game ban for failed drug test

Jay Asser 7/04/2018
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Thomas Davis has missed only three games the past six seasons.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will be suspended for the first four games of the coming NFL season after violating the league’s policy on performing-enhancing drugs.

Davis made the announcement on social media on Friday, calling it “one of the saddest days” of his career, while also stating “I am not a cheater”.

In the video posted with the message, Davis said: “I was completely caught off guard by this. I’ve never in any way done anything to try to intentionally cheat the game. It’s one of those situations where the NFL rules are clear; they state that you are responsible for what you put in your body.

“I’ve taken the same supplements for the last seven or eight years and never had any issues. Been tested numerous times over the years while taking the same stuff. And, unfortunately, these are some of the things that happens when you take supplements.

“I’ve never tested positive for a steroid or HGH. It’s not one of those situations. It ended up being an estrogen blocker that triggered a positive test for me. I just want you guys to know that in no way would I ever do anything, like I said, to cheat this game or to try to create a competitive advantage over anybody.”

The 35-year-old Pro Bowler, who was honoured with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2014, has missed only three games over the past six years.

Between him and Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have one of the best linebacker duos in the league and one that helped to allow the seventh-fewest yards last season with 317.1 per game.

While the NFL has yet to release the schedule for next season, Carolina will be tasked with playing in one of the toughest divisions as the NFC South featured three teams with at least 10 wins last year.

Davis had previously announced he would retire after 2018, but said in his video that the ban may change his plans.

“I’m going to serve this four-game suspension and I’ll be back ready to go back out there with my teammates,” he said. “And, you know, who knows? Maybe this isn’t my last year.”

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Brandin Cooks trade gives New England Patriots more options but Odell Beckham Jr likely not on the way

Jay Asser 4/04/2018
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Brandin Cooks will bring his speed to the Los Angeles Rams.

Brandin Cooks spent all of one season in New England before the Patriots decided to move on from the speedy wide receiver.

New England shipped Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd overall pick in this month’s draft, one year after acquiring him for a first-rounder.

As part of the deal, the Patriots also sent a fourth-round pick (136 overall) and received a sixth-round selection (198) back from Los

Angeles.

Cooks was one of Tom Brady’s primary weapons this past season, serving as the vertical threat in New England’s offence. He hauled in 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, while his mark of 16.6 yards per reception and 18 catches of 20-plus yards ranked seventh and eighth in the NFL, respectively.

His speed and ability to beat defenders allowed Brady to attack downfield more than he had in years. And at 24, Cooks is still near the front-end of his prime as one of the star receivers in the league.

So why did the Patriots, who are very much in the middle of a championship window with an aging Brady, trade away one of their best playmakers?

Bill Belichick is known for moving on from players before they begin to decline, but that’s not what this trade is about. Instead, it has more to do with getting value for a player who New England may not have wanted to pay a premium for.

When the Patriots sent the 32nd overall pick in last year’s draft to acquire Cooks from the New Orleans Saints, they likely did so with the intention of keeping him for at least two seasons on the tail end of his rookie contract – including the fifth-year option for 2018 that will pay him nearly $8.5 million.

But with receivers like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins earning deals this offseason that will pay them around $15m annually, New England may have felt dissuaded by their chances of keeping Cooks on an appealing contract after this coming year.

Watkins also indirectly factors into the Cooks trade in another way. With the wideout having left the Rams for the Kansas City Chiefs, it created a vacancy for Los Angeles to fill with another deep threat capable of stretching the field.

The Rams reportedly inquired about New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr, but preferred the option of Cooks. With the reigning NFC West champions trying to fill a need and continuing to be aggressive in the trade market to assemble a win-now roster, the Patriots likely saw an opportunity to extract maximum value for Cooks.

New England now have two first-rounders (23 and 31 overall), two second-rounders (43 and 63) to play with ahead of or during the draft. Belichick has given himself plenty of flexibility to bolster the roster in a number of different ways, whether that means using the picks on impact rookies, trading up to select a top prospect, trading down to accumulate more assets, or – the most proactive option – using them in a trade for a star.

It’s impossible to escape the speculation that the Cooks trade is potentially a precursor to a trade for Beckham.

Beckham

The Giants probably aren’t actively shopping Beckham, but have reportedly told teams that price for the mercurial wide receiver would be two first-round picks. And it just so happens that the Patriots now have two first-round picks.

As fun as it would be to imagine Brady and Beckham on the same field destroying defences, it’s more fantasy than reality. New England, under Belichick, have never been the type of team to give up valuable, cost-controlled assets for star players. Even when they traded for Randy Moss in 2007, they bought low with a fourth-round pick.

Perhaps Brady’s ticking clock – and maybe Belichick’s as well – could change the Patriots’ approach, but it’s more likely the Cooks trade has nothing to do with Beckham and is more telling of the confidence they have in their current receiving corps of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Rob Gronkowski, who looks like he’ll be back after contemplating retirement.

But even if Beckham isn’t on the way, New England should now have more moves up their sleeve.

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Ndamukong Suh signing gives Los Angeles Rams a defence that will strike fear into opponents' hearts

Jay Asser 27/03/2018
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Ndamukong Suh is joining the Los Angeles Rams on a one-year, $14 million deal.

The Los Angeles Rams defence is set to be downright scary after the addition of their newest weapon, Ndamukong Suh.

The Rams reached an agreement with the defensive tackle on a one-year, $14 million deal on Monday, giving them another premier playmaker on a defence that has gone from good to great this offseason.

After trading for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to bolster their secondary, Los Angeles have now created a fearsome duo on the defensive line by bringing in Suh to join Aaron Donald.

While Donald was the Defensive Player of the Year last season and a First-team All-Pro for three years running, Suh has a little bit to prove at his new stop.

After racking up 8.5 sacks in his final season with Detroit in 2014, the 31-year-old managed 15.5 sacks in total over three seasons in Miami, despite playing all 16 games each year.

Suh, however, still ranked top 10 in the NFL in total pressures on the defensive interior every season in Miami, according to Pro Football Focus, so it’s not as if he’s declining in a major way, as his raw stats might suggest.

Now paired with Donald, Suh’s job is likely to get much easier with opposing offences throwing more of their attention and double teams at his teammate.

Between them, the Rams are set up to wreak havoc with pressure up the middle to disrupt quarterbacks, and ball-hawks in the secondary to jump on errant passes.

Los Angeles went 11-5 last season with a middling defence that allowed the 19th-most yards per game (339.6) and 12th-most points (20.6.).

With defensive coordinator Wade Phillips now having new toys to work with, it’s fair to wonder if the Rams have closed the gap on the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles to be a frontrunner at the top of the NFC.

For Suh, the one-year contract means he’ll have the opportunity to both contend for a title and build-up his value – potentially to the level it was in the offseason he signed with the Dolphins – before hitting free agency again.

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